Ohio’s criminal justice system failed Alexis Martin: she's still paying for their mistakes

A 15-year-old involved in a robbery that ended in the death of her alleged pimp was tried as an adult & sentenced to decades behind bars. Released she's not truly free, your Friday long read

We go to the Washington Post for this week’s long read by Jessica Contrera. Read the whole article “The state of Ohio vs. a sex-trafficked teenager.”

Treated like a “child prostitute,” judges and officers ignored Alexis Martin when she told them she was a victim of child sex-trafficking

But as her case moved through the criminal justice system, little attention was paid to how the 15-year-old girl knew the 36-year-old man in the first place. Or what witnesses said he was doing to her. Or why she called him ‘Dad.’

“I called him my dad because he was a pimp,” she said in the recorded conversation. ‘My dad was running an escort business.’”

Ohio already had a law for this moment, when minors charged with crimes disclose they have been sold for sex. The purpose of the “Safe Harbor” law was to ensure that trafficked children are connected to services before any legal proceedings against them. When advocates today train police, prosecutors and judges on how the law works, they point to a case of what not to do. The girl at the center of that case was sitting across from Lietke and Ross.

They carried on with the interview, ignoring what Alexis had revealed.


But in reality, the Safe Harbor law had been on the books for 17 months, mandating that children accused of crimes related to being trafficked have their charges paused while they received services, including a guardian ad litem to advocate on their behalf. Today, children who qualify for Safe Harbor in Akron are also provided with therapists, mentors, drug treatment and lawyers trained on the traumatic impacts of trafficking.

Alexis received none of those.

“It is almost beyond comprehension,” the judge said at the time, “to think that a 15-year-old child would be involved in that kind of work.”

Then he sentenced her to 21 years to life.

Bottom line

They recommended that she receive five years’ parole. But Gov. DeWine, a spokesman explained later, believed that to aid in the transition period and protect the public, released prisoners should remain on state supervision for the rest of the years they were originally sentenced to serve.

Before Alexis cartwheeled outside the prison, she signed a document stating that she agreed to be monitored electronically and by a parole officer until she was 36 years old in 2034.

And if the state’s parole authority deemed it necessary, the paperwork said, she could remain under their control “for the rest of her natural life.”

“How do you feel?” [She] was asked again and again.

How did she feel? She never pulled a trigger, but she was still considered a murderer. She was told she was a victim, but she was still being tracked.

Read the whole article here.

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